Simone Read What? – September & October

Am I finally reading books again? Do I actually have something to review? I don’t think anyone would be surprised if I didn’t, considering how bad my reading slump was this summer. (Spoiler: it was really bad) Well, y’all… I finally managed to read a few books.

Honestly, I’m just as surprised as you are. I still wouldn’t say I’m out of my slump; most of the books I read over the past two months were for work research purposes and because I decided to try a free trial of Kindle Unlimited. Still, at least I’ve been reading something other than the hundreds of thousands of words I’m required to read/edit for my job every month!

Here’s what I read in September and October!

(all summaries and covers from Goodreads)

1. From Blood and Ash

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

2.75 out of 5 stars

I had high hopes that this book would help me out of my reading slump, considering I’d heard so many great things about it. Did I manage to finish it in a less than two weeks (aka faster than I’ve read a book in months)? Yes! So that’s a feat in itself. But I… didn’t really love it.

It started with info dumps and writing that wasn’t particularly compelling. Plus, the sheer number of ellipses! I know I use the heck out of them while writing silly blog posts and incoherent tweets, but in a well-edited book they should be limited. Make your character pause and think in different ways instead of CONSTANTLY using it to convey tone. It was so repetitive and jarring after a while. And in general, the story didn’t really pick up until about 40% into the book. Way too slow for me.

HOWEVER. The character of Hawke (mostly) redeemed this book—at least for a while. By the last 20%, I was so over him. I just ended up finding him kind of annoying. Saw that big reveal coming from a mile away, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did but, yeah… this was just okay. I’m still deciding if I want to read the second book in the series.

2. XV: A Dark Mafia Romance by Lana Sky

WHEN HATE BECOMES OBSESSION…

Mistaken for her beautiful half-sister, Ellen Winthorp is taken captive by a madman who declares that she will be his “fifteen”: the fifteenth victim of a vicious mafia blood feud. Armed with only her instincts, Ellen must resist her captor for as long as she can—which is easier said than done the more she’s exposed to the complex man beneath the beast.

Because Mischa Stepanov isn’t a mindless monster—he’s a wolf, and she’s the unwitting doe caught in his midst.

Unraveling the torment of his past may be her only hope of salvation…

Or the secrets uncovered may destroy them both.

literal 0 out of 5 stars

Trigger warning for this review, and for this book in general.

Clearly I was not the target audience for this because rape fantasies are not my cup of tea. I know this says “dark mafia romance” in the title, but there is nothing romantic about rape or the threat of rape to me. This just made me feel ill. The premise in general was enough to make me sick, but if he called her “little one” one more time, I was actually going to vomit. This was just a story of abuse, not a romance. Oh, and then there’s the convoluted storyline that made zero sense and nothing was ever explained—there are no whys ever answered. That was enough to earn it 0 stars from me. But I’m honestly upset that anyone would classify this as romance. Can we please stop calling books like this romances??

I’ve been trying to read more mafia romance books lately for research (work stuff, I have a strange job, okay!) but if this is a common theme in them, I’m concerned for the genre as a whole.

3. Brutal Prince by Sophie Lark

He’s No Prince Charming…

Callum Griffin is the heir to the Irish Mafia. He’s ruthless, arrogant, and he wants to kill me.

We got off on the wrong foot when I set a (very small) fire in his house.

Our families believe a marriage pact is the only thing that will prevent all-out warfare.

I think I might need to murder him while he sleeps.

This would all be a lot easier if Callum wasn’t so damned good-looking.

But I’ve got a lockbox around my heart. Because even if I’m forced to marry him…

I could never love a brutal prince.

“Brutal Prince” is the explosive first act in the epic “Brutal Birthright” series. It’s a stand-alone Dark Mafia Romance, complete with HEA and no cliffhangers. It contains blazing hot bedroom scenes for mature readers only!

2 out of 5 stars

Like I said, I’m reading these mafia books for work. And thankfully this one wasn’t as awful as the other two I’ve read so far. In fact, I may go so far as to say I vaguely enjoyed it. This started off like a comedy of errors meets ~~bad mob boys~~ which definitely didn’t hook me straight away. In fact, I nearly DNF’d it then. But I stuck with it and ended up not hating it, although there were a few touch and go moments that made me roll my eyes. I think what saved this was that it was more politically driven than mob driven, so there was a little more interest in that way. And (it’s wild that I actually have to say this about a romance) all the sex was consensual.

4. Crow by A. Zavarelli

An Irish mobster. A missing friend. Two loyalties, ripping me apart.

I had a plan.

Get in, get my information, and get out. Easy, right?

Turns out, infiltrating the Irish mafia isn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I just wanted a soldier. Someone I could flirt with to get me in the door.

That’s when Lachlan Crow noticed me. Problem was, he wasn’t a soldier. No, he was next in line for the throne of the Irish underworld. And he was determined to hate me from the outset. My sob story about needing a job? Yeah, he wasn’t buying that either.

Too bad for him, I won’t let anyone get in the way of my mission.

Who cares if we have some kind of crazy chemistry? He’s the worst kind of wrong- and I would never in a million years be with a guy like him.

Because they took her from me, and I’m going to make them pay.

4 out of 5 stars

Finally, some decent mob content! This ACTUALLY felt like I was reading a story about the mob and its dealings instead of a rape fantasy or a book that claimed to be about the mob but essentially ignored it. It dealt with those dark themes that I was expecting without glorifying it—in fact, it showed the horrors of them well.

One thing I really liked about this was the distinct voice of each character. Sometimes with dual POV books, it can be difficult to tell the POVs apart—they end up sounding identical. But both Lachlan and Mackenzie had specific tones and ways of thinking. Plus, Zavarelli managed to write Lachlan’s POV so that I could actually hear his accent in my head. Mad props for that, because I usually find the incorporation of an accent to be cringey, but this was done so well.

One complaint I had was that it could have used better editing and some of the stylistic choices were a bit strange. Sometimes it made reading certain passages a little difficult, but it didn’t take me out of the story too much (like From Blood and Ash’s ellipses did). Overall, I really enjoyed this.

5. Reaper by A. Zavarelli

Sasha.

He’s dark and mysterious. Quiet and lethal. An Irish mobster. Pure sin wrapped up in a beautiful package. But there’s also something off about him. He doesn’t feel anything. He shows no emotions. Sometimes I question his humanity. He hasn’t spoken to me in two years. Not a single word. But we share a secret, he and I. And if it ever comes out, I have no doubt in my mind… He won’t have a problem killing me too.

Ronan.

I’ve slain for her. I’ll do it again. When it comes to Sasha, there isn’t a line I won’t cross. I watch her. She doesn’t know it. She thinks I hate her. Sometimes, I think I might too. But I’m always there, lurking in the shadows. Craving her. Trying to keep the beast within at bay. I’ll keep her safe. I’ll slaughter anyone who tries to hurt her. The only thing I can’t do… is protect her from myself.

2.75 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed Crow so much that I immediately started reading Reaper, the second book in the Boston Underworld series, the minute after I finished it. It takes A LOT to make me want to pick up the next book so quickly, so that’s a testament to how much I liked the first one.

That said, I didn’t like this one as much as the first. It was definitely darker (in a completely different way) and some of the things Ronan did when it came to Sasha had me looking like 😬😶. I’ll still probably read the next book in the series, but I’ll be taking a break for a bit.

6. Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend… and a big one to learn about himself.

3.75 out of 5 stars

About damn time I read a sports romance. And an LGBTQ sports romance? Sign me up, baby!

This was a quick, relatively light read and by the end I was in love with both Jamie and Wes. Definitely made me feel warm and fuzzy, which was such a nice break from those dark mafia books.

7. Rush by Kandi Steiner

Drama. Lies. Sex.

Welcome to Palm South University.

The weather isn’t the only thing heating up in South Florida. At a school where fraternities and sororities don’t exactly play by the rules, relationships are bound to be tested. Parties and sex are definitely key ingredients in the Palm South recipe, but what happens when family issues, secret lives, and unrequited love get tossed in the mix?

Follow Cassie, Bear, Jess, Skyler, Erin, Ashlei, and Adam as they tackle college at a small, private beach town university. Written in television drama form, each episode of this serial will pull you deeper and deeper into the world of PSU.

Where the sun is hot and the clothes are scarce, anything can happen.

0 out of 5 stars

Ugh. This was somehow trashy but boring. Didn’t really care for any of the characters or their storylines. And the one Black character has an entire family with a drug problem? Give me a f*cking break. Oh and one girl’s little sister (in the sorority) is described as being “part Asian”. Umm, I’m sorry, but she’s your little and you can’t even specify what her ethnicity is past Asian? Gross.

8. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing.

She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

3.5 out of 5 stars

This was okay. Definitely enjoyable in places, but overall it didn’t really hook me until about 70% in. Thankfully, I’m not the type to DNF a book often, so I managed to get into it eventually.

I thought it took far too long in the beginning to get to the real meat of the story. Vanessa being fed up in her job and wanting to leave dragged on for too long. Honestly, in general, the whole book felt too long. And I get that this was meant to be a slow burn but this just felt a little too slow at times. Also, there were some weird sentence structures throughout the book that threw me. That said, the exploration of family dynamics and the effects of addiction were great—easily the best part of the book.

9. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

4 out of 5 stars

Figured I’d round out the end of Spooky Season with a mystery. I read One of Us is Lying a while back and really enjoyed it. And I gotta say, I really liked this one too! Sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed with all the characters that were mentioned, but it led to great “omg who’s the killer???” moments. Also, there’s something about McManus’s writing style that I adore; can’t quite put my finger on it, but her books always have me saying, “Okay, just one more page…” and then I end up reading half the book. Love that.

10. Filthy Rich Alpha by Virna DePaul

High finance and a sizzling office affair…

Cara Michal has fought every step of the way to earn her place in the glittering seven-figure world of Wall Street. She keeps her head down and does her job, but there are secret desires swirling inside her and it’s taking everything she has to keep herself in control.

All that changes when Cara gives in to her wild side and kisses a sexy stranger at an office party…

Branden Duke is a man who seemingly has it all—money, power, prestige. He’s missing one thing, though…a woman who connects with him on a physical and emotional level, and that’s Cara.

When the past comes back to haunt them, Branden and Cara risk losing everything to keep what’s most important to them—each other.

1.5 out of 5 stars

This is a book I had to read for work. Fast paced, insta-love, bland but decent writing, but the plot… eh. I definitely wouldn’t have picked this up on my own to read, but as far as work tasks go, there are worse things. That said, just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’ve finally realized that this ~~alpha~~ trope is not for me.

┅┅┅┅┅┅┅┅┅┅┅┅

Okay, 10 books in 2 months is back on track to where I was before! I mean, I’m nowhere near caught up to where I should be for my Goodreads goal, but it’s not bad compared to the 4 books I managed to read in 3 months this summer. Yikes. Hoping to knock out at least 10 more by the end of the year, but with my workload increasing and NaNoWriMo approaching, we’ll have to see how it goes!

Have you read anything good lately? Any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!

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